An Introduction to ‘In Anticipation of Belonging’

last edited on Thu. June 30 2016

This summer at the Smart Museum, we are partnering with cultural and community collaborators from across Chicago to transform our galleries into a space where we can think critically and creatively together about the conditions that enable belonging or that deny inclusion.

This project, In Anticipation of Belonging, occupies the Richard and Mary L. Gray gallery in the middle of the Smart Museum. During an initial summit, our partners used art in the Museum’s collection to spark conversation about the aesthetic, social, and political conditions that either encourage belonging or propagate exclusion. We then investigated how cultural organizations are situated within this dialogue. From these conversations, each partner has developed their own path of investigation into different dimensions of belonging.


Stockyard Institute will capture the sonic landscape of this site with the Smart Radio Station, consisting of, in part, audio interviews with project participants, Museum guests, and other members of our community. The primary function will be to coordinate an ongoing incidental audio narrative on ‘belonging,’ by gathering random sound experiences, music performances, audio waves, talks, found transmissions, sonic experiments and interviews throughout the immediate area. The narrative will be a subjective and collaged interpretation of ‘belonging’ by the end of the program, and it will align with the positive social, artistic and civic directives of the Stockyard Institute as we use the Museum to build relationships with the community.

At the project’s end, the station will convert from a medium for accumulating sonic material to a speaker and broadcaster, sending out a collective message of ‘belonging’ from the Smart Museum. 

The Arts + Public Life's Teen Arts Council is a group of student leaders who collaborate with Arts + Public Life at the University of Chicago to develop creative skills, leadership experience, and opportunities for their peers to engage with the arts. The Council members will investigate their relationship to the Museum’s built environment, enacting physical and programmatic interventions. They will transform the space into a more ideal site of belonging for their peers, cultivating teens’ creativity, social development, and leadership, while inspiring them to make a positive difference in their community through the arts.

The Odyssey Institute, a core program of Illinois Humanities, will conduct two seminars with rising high school sophomores and seniors. The first will explore and challenge the notion of citizenship, and the second will examine the lives of art objects through archival and collections-based research practices. This summer, students will be working with the extensive art collection of Patric McCoy, co-founder of Diasporal Rhythms, an organization of collectors of art by living artists of the African Diaspora. With the Smart Museum as one of the bases of operations for this project, students will receive instruction in art handling and registration, photography, art media, library research (using books and digital resources), and presentation skills. Odyssey Institute students will be supported in their efforts by workshops given by the Museum staff, and by extended activity in the University of Chicago's libraries.

Red Line Service, working with adults experiencing homelessness, strives to open and expand critical dialogues about poverty, social responsibility, and culture. They will consider questions of visibility related to socially marginalized groups while also creating non-traditional forums to encourage creative and intellectual exchange. Red Line Service insists that communal artistic and intellectual enrichment awakens imaginative possibilities in all people, encouraging them to envision, aspire to, and build alternative realities, reshaping our society into a more connected—more loving—community of care.


The galleries have been designed to accommodate these different forms of inquiry and activity. Upon visiting the Museum, you will find an interactive radio station, a space for viewing Museum artworks, and seminar classrooms. Some areas have been left empty, affording space for the projects to grow and evolve over the summer. As you move through the gallery, you’ll find evidence of these different activities and opportunities to engage with the material.

This project anticipates Conversations with the Collection: Belonging, a yearlong project that opens August 16 and explores ideas of belonging through objects from across cultures and eras on display throughout the Smart Museum’s collection galleries.

Follow the Smart Museum blog for a weekly look at the conversations, events, and works of art being developed over the course of In Anticipation of Belonging